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Body Positivity vs. Body Neutrality: Choose your Path

Body positivity is all about accepting and loving your body, just the way you are. Body neutrality, on the other hand, takes a more holistic approach to bodies, which can help you move away from the hyperfocus on body image, and into gratitude for everything your body does for you.

Bodies of all shapes, sizes and abilities are featured in all major ad campaigns and on Fashion Week runways and motivational quotes. But body positivity has one major limitation: It keeps the focus on beauty or feeling beautiful as the primary goal when there is so much more to everyone than the way you, she, they look.

Body neutrality is exactly what it sounds like: generally feeling neutral about your body most days.

Practicing body neutrality may be especially helpful for those struggling with eating disorders because body positivity can be an unrealistic — and sometimes unhelpful — approach. Body neutrality promotes self-acceptance.

Tips to Start Practicing ‘Body Neutrality’

Everyone’s relationship with their body is unique. That said, there are plenty of concrete actions you can take to try integrating body neutrality into your own lifestyle.

Practice gratitude.

When you wake up in the morning, take a moment to be thankful that you’ve given your body rest and restoration. This could be as easy as lying or sitting still and saying “thank you” to yourself.

Be objective.

When you look into the mirror, instead of thinking about how a body part looks, consider what it does for you — a mindfulness strategy that’s technically called “mirror acceptance” or “mirror exposure.”

Make mindfulness a daily habit.

During movement — exercise, sport, dance — cultivate a sense of gratitude for what your body is doing in real-time. Try mindfully acknowledging each movement.

Practice compassion towards yourself.

When your body isn’t feeling well — maybe you have an aching stomach after eating too fast or are experiencing a flare-up of a chronic condition — consider how amazing it is that your body has the strength to heal itself, whether just with time or a little help. But you don’t have to always be in awe of your body. You can also practice body neutrality by simply recognizing and accepting facts such as “my stomach is sensitive” or “my joints don’t always move easily.” Try not to think about these as “bad” or things that need to be fixed but rather they’re just realities.

Understanding your values is key to practicing body neutrality. What do you want to spend your time on every day? What do you want to cultivate more of? What are your goals and passions? Questions such as these can help you shift your mindset and stop letting thoughts about your body rule your life.

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